Giovanni, Nikki 1943-
Giovanni, Nikki 1943-
(Yolanda Cornelia Giovanni, Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr.)
PERSONAL: Born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr., June 7, 1943, in Knoxville, TN; daughter of Jones Gus (a probation officer) and Yolande Cornelia (a social worker) Giovanni; children: Thomas Watson. Ethnicity: “Black.” Education: Fisk University, B.A. (with honors), 1967; postgraduate studies at University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work and Columbia University School of Fine Arts, 1968.
ADDRESSES: Office—Virginia Polytechnic Institution and State University, Department of English, Shanks Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061. E-mail—ngiovann@vt. edu.
CAREER: Poet, writer, activist, educator, commentator, reviewer, critic, and lecturer. Queens College of the City University of New York, Flushing, NY, assistant professor of black studies, 1968; Rutgers University, Livingston College, New Brunswick, NJ, associate professor of English, 1968-72; College of Mount St. Joseph on the Ohio, Mount St. Joseph, Ohio, professor of creative writing, 1985-87; Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, professor of English, 1987-99, Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies, 1997-99, university distinguished professor, 1999. Ohio State University, Columbus, visiting professor of English, 1984; Texas Christian University, visiting professor in humanities, 1991; University of Oregon, Martin Luther King, Jr., Visiting Professor, 1992; University of Minnesota, Hill Visiting Professor, 1993; Indiana University, Kokomo, visiting professor, 1995. Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, artist-in-residence, 1996-97; Walt Whitman Birthplace, poet-in-residence, 2004-05. Founder of publishing firm, NikTom Ltd., 1970; participated in “Soul at the Center,” Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, 1972; Cochair, Literary Arts Festival for State of Tennessee Homecoming, 1986; appointed to Ohio Humanities Council, 1987; director, Warm Hearth Writer’s Workshop, 1988; member of board of directors, Virginia Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy, 1990-93; participant in Appalachian Community Fund, 1991-93, and Volunteer Action Center, 1991-94; featured poet, International Poetry Festival, Utrecht, Holland, 1991. Has given numerous poetry readings and lectures worldwide and appeared on numerous television talk shows, including Soul! and the Tonight Show.
MEMBER: National Council of Negro Women (recipient of Life Membership and Scroll), Society of Magazine Writers, National Black Heroines for PUSH, Winnie Mandela Children’s Fund Committee, PEN, Delta Sigma Theta (honorary member), Phi Beta Kappa.
AWARDS, HONORS: Grants from the Ford Foundation, 1967, National Endowment for the Arts, 1968, and Harlem Cultural Council, 1969; named one of ten “Most Admired Black Women,”Amsterdam News, 1969; named Woman of the Year by Ebony, 1970; outstanding achievement award, Mademoiselle, 1971; Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Award, 1971, for outstanding contribution to arts and letters; Meritorious Plaque for Service, Cook County Jail, 1971; Prince Matchabelli Sun Shower Award, 1971; National Association of Radio and Television Announcers Award for Best Spoken Word Album, 1972, for recording Truth Is on Its Way; Woman of the Year Youth Leadership Award, Ladies’ Home Journal, 1972; National Book Award nomination, 1973, for Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet; Best Books for Young Adults citation, American Library Association, 1973, for My House; Woman of the Year citation, Cincinnati Chapter of YWCA, 1983; elected to Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame, 1985; Outstanding Woman of Tennessee citation, 1985; Post-Corbett Award, 1986; Distinguished Recognition Award, Detroit City Council, 1986; Silver Apple Award, Oakland Museum Film Festival, 1988, for Spirit to Spirit; Woman of the Year, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP; Lynchburg chapter), 1989.Recipient of keys to numerous cities, including Dallas, TX, New York, NY, Cincinnati, OH, Miami, FL, New Orleans, LA, Baltimore, MD, Mobile, AL, and Los Angeles, CA; Ohioana Book Award, 1988; Tennessee Writer’s Award, Nashville Banner, 1994; Jeanine Rae Award for the Advancement of Women’s Culture, 1995; Langston Hughes Award, 1996; Image Award, NAACP, 1998, for Love Poems, and 2000, for Blues: For All the Changes—New Poems; Tennessee Governor’s Award, 1998; inducted into National Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, 1998-99; Appalachian Medallion Award, 1998-99; Virginia Governor’s Award for the Arts, 2000; Certificate of Commendation, United States Senate, 2000; SHero Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2002; the first Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, 2001; Black Caucus Award for nonfiction, American Library Association, and NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, both 2003, both for Quilting the Black-eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems; East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame Award for Poetry, 2004-05; John Henry “Pop” Lloyd Humanitarian Award, 2004-05; named a “Legend” by O, the Oprah Magazine, 2004-05; HUES Leadership Network for Women of Color Award, University of Virginia Women’s Center, 2006; Oppen-heim Toy Portfolio Best Book Award, Child Magazine’s Best Children’s Book of the Year Award, and Caldecott Honor Book designation, all 2006, all for Rosa.Recipient of honorary degrees from Wilberforce University, 1972, Fisk University, 1988, University of Maryland (Princess Anne Campus), 1974, Ripon University, 1974, Smith College, 1975, College of Mount St. Joseph on the Ohio, 1985, Mount Saint Mary College, 1987, Fisk University, 1988, Indiana University, 1991, Otterbein College, 1992, Rockhurst College, 1993, Widener University, 1993, Albright College, 1995, Cabrini College, 1995, Allegheny College, 1997, Delaware State University, 1998, Martin University, 1999, Wilmington University, 1999, Manhattanville College, 2000, State University of West Georgia, 2001, Central State University, 2001, Pace University, 2002, and West Virginia University, 2003.
Black Feeling, Black Talk (also see below), Broadside Press (Detroit, MI), 1968, 3rd edition, 1970.
Black Judgement (also see below), Broadside Press (Detroit, MI), 1968.
Black Feeling, Black Talk/Black Judgement (contains Black Feeling, Black Talk and Black Judgement), Morrow (New York, NY), 1970, selection published as Knoxville, Tennessee, illustrated by Larry Johnson, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.
Re: Creation, Broadside Press (Detroit, MI), 1970.
Poem of Angela Yvonne Davis, Afro Arts (New York, NY), 1970.
Spin a Soft Black Song: Poems for Children, illustrated by Charles Bible, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1971, reprinted with illustrations by George Martins, Lawrence Hill (Westport, CT), 1985, revised edition, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1987.
My House, foreword by Ida Lewis, Morrow (New York, NY), 1972.
Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People, illustrated by George Ford, Lawrence Hill (Chicago, IL), 1973.
The Women and the Men, Morrow (New York, NY), 1975.
Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, introduction by Paula Giddings, Morrow (New York, NY), 1978.
Vacation Time: Poems for Children, illustrated by Marisabina Russo, Morrow (New York, NY), 1980.
Those Who Ride the Night Winds, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983.
The Genie in the Jar, illustrated by Chris Raschka, Holt (New York NY) 1996.
The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni, 1968-1995, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.
The Sun Is So Quiet, illustrated by Ashley Bryant, Holt (New York, NY), 1996.
Love Poems, Morrow (New York, NY), 1997.
Blues: For All the Changes—New Poems, Morrow(New York, NY), 1999.
Quilting the Black-eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems, Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
Prosaic Soul of Nikki Giovanni, HarperCollins (NewYork, NY), 2003.
The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998, Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.
The Girls in the Circle, illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
Acolytes, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.
Truth Is on Its Way (album), Atlantis, 1971.
Like a Ripple on a Pond (album), Collectibles, 1973.
The Way I Feel (album), Atlantic, 1975.
Legacies—TThe Poetry of Nikki Giovanni—Read by Nikki Giovanni (album), Folkways, 1976.
The Reason I Like Chocolate (and Other Children’s Poems) (album), Folkways, 1976.
Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (album), Folkways, 1978.
Nikki Giovanni and the New York Community Choir (album), Collectibles, 1993.
In Philadelphia (album), Collectibles, 1997.
Stealing Home: For Jack Robinson (album), Sony, 1997.
Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like the Rivers (compilation), Rhino, 2000.
The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection (CD), HarperAudio, 2002.
(Editor) Night Comes Softly: An Anthology of Black Female Voices, Medic Press (Newark, NJ), 1970.
Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1971.
(Author of introduction) Adele Stephanie Sebastian, Intro to Fine (poems), Woman in the Moon, 1985.
Sacred Cows… and Other Edibles (essays), Morrow (New York, NY), 1988.
(Editor, with C. Dennison) Appalachian Elders: A Warm Hearth Sampler, Pocahontas Press (Blacksburg, VA), 1991.
(Author of foreword) The Abandoned Baobob: The Autobiography of a Woman, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 1991.
Racism 101 (essays), Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
(Editor) Grand Mothers: Poems, Reminiscences, and Short Stories about the Keepers of Our Traditions, Holt (New York, NY), 1994.
(Editor) Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate: Looking at the Harlem Renaissance through Poems, Holt (New York, NY), 1995.
(Editor) Grand Fathers: Reminiscences, Poems, Recipes, and Photos of the Keepers of Our Traditions, Holt (New York, NY), 1999.
(Author of foreword) Margaret Ann Reid, Black Protest Poetry: Polemics from the Harlem Renaissance and the Sixties, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 2001.
Rosa (children’s book), illustrated by Bryan Collier, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2005.
On My Journey Now: Looking at African-American History through the Spirituals, foreword by Arthur C. Jones, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.
Jimmy Grasshopper versus the Ants (children’s book), illustrated by Chris Raschka, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.
Contributor to books and anthologies, including The Black Woman: An Anthology, edited by Toni Cade, New American Library (New York, NY), 1970; Brothers and Sisters, edited by Arnold Adoff, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1970; Black Women Writers, 1950-1980: A Critical Evaluation, edited by Mari Evans, Anchor/ Doubleday (New York, NY), 1984; Lure and Loathing: The Ambivalence of Assimilation, edited by Gerald Early, Viking/Penguin (New York, NY), 1991; African American Literature: An Anthology of Nonfiction, Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, edited by Demetrice Worley and Jesse Perry, Jr., National Textbook Company (Lincolnwood, IL), 1993; I Know What the Red Clay Looks Like: The Voice and Vision of Black Women Writers, edited by Rebecca Carroll, Crown (New York, NY), 1994; My Soul Is a Witness: African-American Women’s Spirituality, edited by Gloria Wade-Gayles, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1995; I Am the Darker Brother: An Anthology of Modern Poems by African Americans, edited by Arnold Adoff, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997; How to Make Black America Better, compiled and edited by Tavis Smiley, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2000; Out of the Rough: Women’s Poems of Survival and Celebration, edited by Dorothy Perry Thompson, Novello Festival Press (Charlotte, NC), 2001; In Praise of Our Teachers, edited by Gloria Wade-Gayles, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2003; and Breaking the Silence: Inspirational Stories of Black Cancer Survivors, edited by Karin Stanford, Hilton Publishing Company (Chicago, IL), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Black Creation, Black World, Ebony, Essence, Freedom Ways, Journal of Black Poetry, Negro Digest, Conversation, Black Graphics International, Afro-American Woman Magazine, Black Works, Encore, Saturday Review of Education, International Educational and Cultural Exchange, New York Times, New Yorker, Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Literary Cavalcade, San Francisco Examiner, Career Insights, Ohioana Quarterly, Catalyst, Black Collegian, Georgia Review, Proteus, Cincinnati Enquirer, New York Times Magazine, Roanoke Times, Tennessee English Journal, Vibe, Umbra, and O, the Oprah Magazine.
Contributor to Voices of Diversity: The Power of Book Publishing, a videotape produced by the Diversity Committee of the Association of American Publishers and Kaufman Films, 2002. Contributor to numerous anthologies. Contributor of columns to newspapers.
Editorial consultant, Encore American and Worldwide
A selection of Giovanni’s public papers is housed at Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University.
ADAPTATIONS: Spirit to Spirit: The Poetry of Nikki Giovanni (television film), 1986, produced by Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Ohio Council on the Arts. Many of Giovanni’s poems have been recorded to audiocassette and compact disc. SIDELIGHTS: One of the best-known African American poets to reach prominence during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Nikki Giovanni has continued to create poems that encompass a life fully experienced. Her unique and insightful verses testify to her own evolving awareness and experiences as a woman of color: from child to young woman, from naive college freshman to seasoned civil rights activist, and from daughter to mother. Frequently anthologized, Giovanni’s poetry expresses strong racial pride and respect for family. Her informal style makes her work accessible to both adults and children. In addition to collections such as Re: Creation, Spin a Soft Black Song: Poems for Children, and Those Who Ride the Night Winds, Giovanni has published several works of nonfiction, including Racism 101 and the anthology Grand Mothers: Poems, Reminiscences, and Short Stories about the Keepers of Our Traditions. A frequent lecturer and public reader, Giovanni has also taught at Rutgers University, Ohio State University, and Virginia Tech, where she holds the title of university distinguished professor, the highest honor the school can bestow upon a faculty member.
Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1943, the younger of two daughters in a close-knit family, and had a reputation for being strong-willed even as a child. She gained an intense appreciation for her African-American heritage from her outspoken grandmother, Louvenia Terrell Watson. “I come from a long line of storytellers,” Giovanni once explained in an interview, describing how her family influenced her poetry through oral traditions. “My grandfather was a Latin scholar and he loved the myths, and my mother is a big romanticist, so we heard a lot of stories growing up.” This early exposure to the power of spoken language would influence Giovanni’s career as a poet, particularly her tendency to sprinkle her verses with colloquialisms, including curse words. “I appreciated the quality and the rhythm of the telling of the stories,” she once commented, “and I knew when I started to write that I wanted to retain that—I didn’t want to become the kind of writer that was stilted or that used language in ways that could not be spoken. I use a very natural rhythm; I want my writing to sound like I talk.”
When Giovanni was a young child, she moved with her parents from Knoxville to a predominantly black suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. She remained close to her grandmother, however, spending both her sophomore and junior years of high school at the family home in Knoxville. Encouraged by several schoolteachers, Giovanni enrolled early at Fisk University, a prestigious, all-black college in Nashville, Tennessee. Unaccustomed to Fisk’s traditions, the outspoken young woman came into conflict with the school’s dean of women and was asked to leave. She was invited to return to Fisk in 1964, however—the dean who had been her bane was gone—and she went there determined to be an ideal student. She accomplished her goal, becoming a leader in political and literary activities on campus during what would prove to be an important era in black history.
Giovanni had experienced racism firsthand during her childhood in the South. Random violence that erupted in and near Knoxville “was frightening,” she later recalled in an autobiographical essay for CA. “You always felt someone was trying to kill you.” Yet when Giovanni re-entered the freshman class at Fisk she had not yet found her later radical stance. She was decidedly conservative in political outlook: during high school she had been a supporter of Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, as well as an avid reader of books by Ayn Rand, famous for her philosophy of “objectivism” (based on self-assertion, individualism, and competition). The poet credits a Fisk roommate named Bertha with successfully persuading her to embrace revolutionary ideals. In the wake of the civil rights movement and demonstrations against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict, demands for social and political change were sweeping college campuses around the country. “Bertha kept asking, ‘how could Black people be conservative?’” Giovanni wrote in Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet. “‘What have they got to conserve?’ And after a while (realizing that I had absolutely nothing, period) I came around.”
While Giovanni was at Fisk, a black renaissance was emerging as writers and other artists of color were finding new ways of expressing their distinct culture to an increasingly interested public. In addition to serving as editor of the campus literary magazine, Elan, and participating in the Fisk Writers Workshop, Giovanni worked to restore the Fisk chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). At that time, the organization was pressing the concept of “black power” to bring about social and economic reform. Giovanni’s political activism ultimately led to her planning and directing the first Black Arts Festival in Cincinnati, held in 1967.
Later that year, Giovanni graduated magna cum laude with a degree in history. She decided to continue her studies at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work under a grant from the Ford Foundation, and then took classes at Columbia University’s School of Fine Arts. This period was darkened, however, when Giovanni’s beloved grandmother died. The loss “stirred in her a sense of guilt and shame both for the way in which society had dealt with this strong, sensitive woman, to whom she had been so close and who had deeply influenced her life, as well as for the way she herself had left her alone to die,” according to Mozella G. Mitchell in the Dictionary of Literary Biography.
Giovanni’s first published volumes of poetry grew out of her response to the assassinations of such figures as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Robert Kennedy, and the pressing need she saw to raise awareness of the plight and the rights of black people. Black Feeling, Black Talk (which she borrowed money to publish) and Black Judgement (published with a grant from Harlem Council of the Arts) display a strong, militant African American perspective as Giovanni explores her growing political and spiritual awareness. “Poem (No Name No. 2)” from the first volume shows the simple forcefulness of her voice: “Bitter Black Bitterness / Black Bitter Bitterness / Bitterness Black Brothers / Bitter Black Get / Blacker Get Bitter / Get Black Bitterness / NOW.” were the years,” as Calvin Reid in a 1999 Publishers Weekly article observed, “she published such poems as ‘Great Pax Whitey’ (1968), with its intermingling of classical history, irony and antiracist outrage, and ‘Woman Poem,’ which considered the social and sexual limits imposed on black women.”
These early books, which were followed by Re: Creation, quickly established Giovanni as a prominent new African-American voice. Black Feeling, Black Talk “sold more than ten thousand copies in its first year alone, making the author an increasingly visible and popular figure on the reading and speaking circuit. Because of Giovanni’s overt activism, her fame as a personality almost preceded her critical acclaim as a poet. She gave the first public reading of her work at Birdland, a trendy New York City jazz club, to a standing-room-only audience.” Mitchell described the poems Giovanni produced between 1968 and 1970 as “a kind of ritualistic exorcism of former nonblack ways of thinking and an immersion in blackness. Not only are they directed at other black people whom [Giovanni] wanted to awaken to the beauty of blackness, but also at herself as a means of saturating her own consciousness.” Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor Alex Batman heard in Giovanni’s verse the echoes of blues music. “Indeed the rhythms of her verse correspond so directly to the syncopations of black music that her poems begin to show a potential for becoming songs without accompaniment,” Batman noted.
Critical reaction to Giovanni’s early work focused on her more revolutionary poetry. Some reviewers found her political and social positions to be unsophisticated, while others were threatened by her rebelliousness. “Nikki writes about the familiar: what she knows, sees, experiences,” Don L. Lee observed in Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s. “It is clear why she conveys such urgency in expressing the need for Black awareness, unity, solidarity.… What is perhaps more important is that when the Black poet chooses to serve as political seer, he must display a keen sophistication. Sometimes Nikki oversimplifies and therefore sounds rather naive politically.” However, a contributor to the Web site Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color pointed out: “In A Poetic Equation: Conversations between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker, she again raises the issue of revolution. When Walker says to Giovanni, ‘I don’t believe individual defiant acts like these will make for the revolution you want,’ Giovanni replies, ‘No, don’t ever misunderstand me and my use of the term revolution. I could never believe that having an organization was going to cause a revolution.’ Throughout A Poetic Equation, the two talk about issues from how to raise a child to the Vietnam War to how to save the African-American race.”
Giovanni’s first three volumes of poetry were enormously successful, answering as they did a need for inspiration, anger, and solidarity in those who read them. She was among those who publicly expressed the feelings of people who had felt voiceless, vaulting beyond the usual relatively low public demand for modern poetry. Black Judgement alone sold six thousand copies in three months, almost six times the sales level expected of a book of its type. As she traveled to speaking engagements at colleges around the country, Giovanni was often hailed as one of the leading black poets of the new black renaissance. The prose poem “Nikki-Rosa,” Giovanni’s reminiscence of her childhood in a close-knit African-American home, was first published in Black Judgement. In becoming her most beloved and most anthologized work, “Nikki-Rosa” also expanded her appeal to an audience well beyond followers of her more activist poetry. During this time, she also made television appearances, out of which the published conversation with Margaret Walker and one with James Baldwin emerged.
In the late 1960s, Giovanni took a teaching position at Rutgers University. That year she also gave birth to her son, Thomas. Her decision to have a child out of wedlock brought her criticism, but it was understandable to anyone who knew her. Even as a young girl she had determined that the institution of marriage was not hospitable to women and would never play a role in her life.
Following her success as a poet of the black revolution, Giovanni’s work exhibited a shift in focus after the birth of her son. Her priorities now encompassed providing her child with the security of a stable home life. During this period, Giovanni produced a collection of autobiographical essays, two books of poetry for children, and two poetry collections for adults. She also made several recordings of her poetry set against a gospel or jazz musical backdrop. Martha Cook, in an article in Southern Women Writers, noted that Truth Is on Its Way includes a number of poems from Giovanni’s Broadside volumes, with music by the New York Community Choir under the direction of Benny Diggs.
In addition to writing her own poetry, Giovanni used her boundless energy to offer exposure for other African American women writers through NikTom, Ltd., a publishing cooperative she founded in 1970. Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, Carolyn Rodgers, and Mari Evans were among those who benefited from Giovanni’s work in the cooperative. Travels to other parts of the world, including the Caribbean, also filled much of the poet’s time and contributed to the evolution of her work. As she broadened her perspective, Giovanni began to review her own life. Her introspection led to Gemini, which earned a nomination for the National Book Award.
Gemini is a combination of prose, poetry, and other “bits and pieces.” In the words of a critic writing in Kirkus Reviews, it is a work in which “the contradictions are brought together by sheer force of personality.” From sun-soaked childhood memories of a supportive family to an adult acceptance of revolutionary ideology and solo motherhood, the work reflects Giovanni’s internal conflict and self-questioning. “I think all autobiography is fiction,” Giovanni once observed in an interview, expressing amazement that readers feel they will learn something personal about an author by reading a creative work. “The least factual of anything is autobiography, because half the stuff is forgotten,” she added. “Even if you [write] about something terribly painful, you have removed yourself from it. What you have not come to terms with you do not write.” While she subtitled Gemini an autobiography, Giovanni denied that it offered a key to her inner self. But the essays contained in the volume—particularly one about her grandmother—were personal in subject matter and “as true as I could make it,” she commented. Yet, as Giovanni noted in an interview several decades later, “I also recognize that there are [parts of] the book in which I’m simply trying to deal with ideas. I didn’t want it to be considered the definitive. It’s far from that. It’s very selective and how I looked at myself when I was twenty-five.”
In addition to writing for adults in Gemini and other works during the early 1970s, Giovanni began to compose verse for children. Among her published volumes for young readers are Spin a Soft Black Song, Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People, and Vacation Time: Poems for Children. Written for children of all ages, Giovanni’s poems are unrhymed incantations of childhood images and feelings. Spin a Soft Black Song, which she dedicated to her son, Tommy, covers a wealth of childhood interests, such as basketball games, close friends, moms, and the coming of spring. “Poem for Rodney” finds a young man contemplating what he wants to be when he grows up. “If” reflects a young man’s daydreams about what it might have been like to participate in a historic event. In a New York Times Book Review article on Spin a Soft Black Song, Nancy Klein noted: “Nikki Giovanni’s poems for children, like her adult works, exhibit a combination of casual energy and sudden wit. No cheek-pinching auntie, she explores the contours of childhood with honest affection, sidestepping both nostalgia and condescension.”
Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People contains several poems previously published in Black Feeling, Black Talk. Focusing on African-American history, the collection explores issues and concerns specific to black youngsters. In “Poem for Black Boys,” for example, Giovanni wonders why young boys of color do not play runaway slave or Mau-Mau, identifying with the brave heroes of their own race rather than the white cowboys of the Wild West. “Revolutionary Dreams” and “Revolutionary Music” speak to the racial strife of the 1960s and 1970s and look toward an end to racial tension. Commenting on Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People, a Kirkus Reviews contributor claimed: “When [Giovanni] grabs hold… it’s a rare kid, certainly a rare black kid, who could resist being picked right up.”
Vacation Time contrasts with Giovanni’s two earlier poetry collections for children by being “a much more relaxed and joyous collection which portrays the world of children as full of wonder and delight,” according to Kay E. Vandergrift in Twentieth-Century Children’s Writers. In Vacation Time, Giovanni uses more traditional rhyme patterns than in Spin a Soft Black Song. “In her singing lines, Giovanni shows she hadn’t forgotten childhood adventures in… exploring the world with a small person’s sense of discovery,” wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Mitchell, too, claimed in a Dictionary of Literary Biography essay: “One may be dazzled by the smooth way [Giovanni] drops all political and personal concerns [in Vacation Time] and completely enters the world of the child and brings to it all the fanciful beauty, wonder, and lollipopping.”
Giovanni’s other works for children include Knoxville, Tennessee, The Genie in the Jar, and The Sun Is So Quiet. The former is a free-verse poem that was originally published in Black Feeling, Black Talk/Black Judgement. The illustrated work, with art by Larry Johnson, recalls the simple pleasures and comfortable life that Giovanni experienced as she spent her summers growing up in Knoxville. She describes listening to inspiring gospel music; eating barbecue and homemade ice cream; enjoying the warm summer weather; and spending time with loving family and friends. In Giovanni’s work, “Knoxville represents the home of heart, where everyone is welcome,” remarked Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper. The author’s poem evoking “summertime in the rural South makes for a sunny picture book,” commented a Publishers Weekly contributor. In a Horn Book review, Ellen Fader deemed Knoxville, Tennessee “a celebration of African-American family life for all families.”
The Genie in the Jar, published in 1996, is “basically a celebration of creativity and community,” in which a young African American girl is encouraged to dance, move, and create as she forms the substance of her world around her, observed Susan Dove Lempke in Booklist. The poem also stresses the joys of family, as the girl, the “genie” of the title, places her trust in her mother, the “jar” that holds limitless love for her, noted a Publishers Weekly critic. Also published in 1996, The Sun Is So Quiet is a collection of thirteen poems, ranging in topics from snowflakes to bedtime to missing teeth. “The poems,” wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, “hover like butterflies, darting in to make their point and then fluttering off.”
Giovanni has said that she finds writing for children particularly fulfilling because she is a mother. “Mostly I’m aware, as the mother of a reader, that I read to him,” she once observed in an interview. “I think all of us know that your first line to the child is going to be his parent, so you want to write something that the parent likes and can share.” According to Mitchell, the children’s poems have “essentially the same impulse” as Giovanni’s adult poetry—namely, “the creation of racial pride and the communication of individual love. These are the goals of all of Giovanni’s poetry.”
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Giovanni’s popularity as a speaker and lecturer increased along with her success as a poet and children’s author. She received numerous awards for her work, including honors from the National Council of Negro Women and the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers. She was featured in articles for such magazines as Ebony, Jet, and Harper’s Bazaar. She also continued to travel, making trips to Europe and Africa.
Giovanni’s sophistication and maturity are evident in My House. Her viewpoint, still firmly seated in black revolutionary consciousness, balances a wide range of social concerns. Her rhymes are more pronounced, more lyrical, more gentle. The themes of family love, loneliness, and frustration, which Giovanni had raged over in her earlier works, find softer expression in this collection. “My House is not just poems,” commented Kalumu Ya Salaam in Black World. “My House is how it is, what it is to be a young, single, intelligent Black woman with a son and no man. It is what it is to be a woman who has failed and is now sentimental about some things, bitter about some things, and generally always frustrated, always feeling frustrated on one of various levels or another.” In a review for Contemporary Women Poets, Jay S. Paul called the book “a poetic tour through… a place rich with family remembrance, distinctive personalities, and prevailing love.” And in the foreword to My House, Ida Lewis observed that Giovanni “has reached a simple philosophy more or less to the effect that a good family spirit is what produces healthy communities, which is what produces a strong (Black) nation.” Noting the continued focus on self-discovery and the connectedness of self to community throughout My House, critic John W. Conner suggested in English Journal that Giovanni “sees her world as an extension of herself,… sees problems in the world as an extension of her problems, and… sees herself existing amidst tensions, heartache, and marvelous expressions of love.” My House contains the revelations of a woman coming to terms with her life. The Women and the Men continues this trend.
When Giovanni published Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day in 1978, critics viewed it as one of her more somber works, singing a note of grief. They noted the focus on emotional ups and downs, fear and insecurity, and the weight of everyday responsibilities. In his Dictionary of Literary Biography article, Batman observed the poet’s frustration at aims unmet. “What distinguishes Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day is its poignancy,” the critic maintained. “One feels throughout that here is a child of the 1960s mourning the passing of a decade of conflict, of violence, but most of all, of hope.”
During the year Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day was published, Giovanni’s father suffered a stroke. She and her son immediately left their apartment in New York City and returned to the family home in Cincinnati to help her mother cope with her father’s failing health. After her father’s death, Giovanni and her son remained in Cincinnati with her mother. Giovanni thus ensured the same secure, supportive, multigenerational environment for Tommy that she had enjoyed as a child.
The poems in Giovanni’s 1983 collection Those Who Ride the Night Winds reveal “a new and innovative form,” according to Mitchell, who added that “the poetry reflects her heightened self-knowledge and imagination.” Those Who Ride the Night Winds echoes the political activism of Giovanni’s early verse as she dedicates various pieces to Phillis Wheatley, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks. In Sacred Cows… and Other Edibles, a prose work from 1988, the author discusses a wide range of topics: African-American political leaders, national holidays, and termites all come under her insightful and humorous scrutiny. Such essays as “Reflections on My Profession,” “Four Introductions,” and “An Answer to Some Questions on How I Write” were described by Washington Post Book World critic Marita Golden as “quintessential Nikki Giovanni—sometimes funny, nervy, and unnerving with flashes of wisdom.”
As Giovanni moved through her middle years, her works continued to reflect her changing concerns and perspectives. The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni, 1968-1995, which spans the first three decades of her career, was heralded by Booklist critic Donna Seaman as a “rich synthesis [that] reveals the evolution of Giovanni’s voice and charts the course of the social issues that are her muses, issues of gender and race.” Twenty of the fifty-three works collected in Love Poems find the writer musing on subjects as diverse as friendship, sexual desire, motherhood, and loneliness, while the remainder of the volume includes relevant earlier works. “Funny yet thoughtful, Giovanni celebrates creative energy and the family spirit of African-American communities,” Frank Allen wrote of Love Poems in a Library Journal review.
Giovanni continues to supplement her poetry with occasional volumes of nonfiction. In Racism 101, she looks back over the past thirty years as one who influenced the civil rights movement and its aftermath. Characterized by a Publishers Weekly reviewer as “fluid, often perceptive musings that beg for more substance,” this collection of essays touches on diverse topics. Giovanni gives advice to young African-American scholars who are just starting an academic career, and she reflects on her own experiences as a teacher. She also provides a few glimpses into her personal life—for example, she admits to being a confirmed “Trekkie.” The book is a rich source of impressions of other black intellectuals, including writer and activist W.E.B. Du Bois, writers Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Toni Morrison, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and filmmaker Spike Lee. “Giovanni is a shrewd observer and an exhilarating essayist,” maintained Seaman in Booklist, “modulating her tone from chummy to lethal, hilarious to sagacious as smoothly as a race-car driver shifts gears.” She does not believe in padding black realities in cotton wool and rainbows, admiring Native American writer Sherman Alexie for his honesty about “warts and all” depictions of Indian life. In addition to publishing original writings, Giovanni has edited poetry collections like the highly praised Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate: Looking at the Harlem Renaissance through Poems. A compilation of works composed by New York City-based African-American writers during the Harlem Renaissance of the early twentieth century, Shimmy helps students of black writing to gain an understanding of the past.
Giovanni told South Florida Sun-Sentinel interviewer Chauncey Mabe that the Black Arts movement wasn’t about presenting black culture as “Hallmark” perfect, and she feels that “the hip-hop movement took that from us, as we took it from the Harlem Renaissance before us.” She is an avid supporter of hip-hop, “calling it,” wrote Mabe, “the modern equivalent of what spirituals meant to earlier generations of blacks. She admires Out-Kast, Arrested Development, Queen Latifah, and above all, Tupac Shakur. ‘We’re missing Tupac like my generation missed Malcolm X,’ she said. ‘It’s been six years and people feel like he was just here. He brought truth and we’re still trying to learn what he was trying to teach us.’” Rather than trying to imitate black culture, “white rappers, Giovanni noted, could get at the heart of racialism in America. ‘It would be great to learn from whites why white supremacy is so prevalent. Most people have rejected it, but they still know something about it they aren’t saying. I want them to jump into hip-hop and address it.’”
Two later volumes, Blues: For All the Changes—New Poems and Quilting the Black-eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems, mark the crossover from the twentieth to the twenty-first century with poetry that is “socially conscious, outspoken, and roguishly funny,” according to Donna Seaman in Booklist. “Giovanni makes supple use of the irony inherent in the blues, writing tough, sly, and penetrating monologues that both hammer away at racism and praise the good things in life.” Blues, published after Giovanni’s battle with lung cancer and her first volume of poetry in five years, “offers thoughts on her battle with illness, on nature, and on the everyday—all laced with doses of harsh reality, a mix of socio-political viewpoints, and personal memories of loss,” wrote Denolynn Carroll of American Visions, who quoted from “The Faith of a Mustard Seed (In the Power of a Poem)”: “I like my generation for trying to hold these truths to be self-evident. I like us for using the weapons we had. I like us for holding on and even now we continue to share what we hope and know what we wish.” In an interview with Publishers Weekly contributor Calvin Reid, Giovanni “described Blues as ‘my environmental piece,’ and there are impressions of the land around her home in Virginia, but this collection also salutes the late blues singer Alberta Hunter; it reveals her love of sports as well as her love of Betty Shabazz; jazz riffs mingle with memories of going to the ballpark with her father to see the Cincinnati Reds.”
Quilting the Black-eyed Pea includes, as the title already tells, “anecdotes, musings, and praise songs,” according to Tara Betts of Black Issues Book Review. There is a prose poem honoring Rosa Parks, reflecting the honor bestowed on Giovanni when she was recognized with the first Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award in 2002. Mabe noted that “single motherhood, a bout with lung cancer, showers of literary awards and an academic career have enriched but not blunted her edge,” although Giovanni added wryly: “Being radical today has sometimes meant being reduced to voting for Ralph Nader.” But, as Betts pointed out, Giovanni continues to fight against racism with her words wherever it crops up, as “revealed in ‘The Self-Evident Poem’: ‘We just can’t keep bomb /-ing the same people over and over again because we don’t want / to admit the craziness is home grown.’” In an interview at the time of Quilting the Black-eyed Pea’s publication, Samiya Bashir of Black Issues Book Review felt Giovanni maintained a “broad fan base, perhaps because she has always put love at the forefront of her life and work”—a love that sometimes sparks protective rage, which still comes out in her writing.
In 2003, the audio compilation The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection was released. Spanning her poetry from 1968 to the present, the poems address a variety of subjects, including racism, the fight for equal rights, injustice, and the simple pleasures of food. “On the page, much of Giovanni’s writing seems rhetorical,” claimed Rochelle Ratner in Library Journal, but “hearing her read, dogma is replaced by passion.”
Two years later, Giovanni published Rosa, a children’s book version of Rosa Parks’s famous refusal to give up her seat on the bus and other pivotal events of the civil rights movement. Reviewing the book for School Library Journal, Margaret Bush called it “striking” and “a handsome and thought-provoking introduction to these watershed acts of civil disobedience.” A Publishers Weekly reviewer similarly praised the book as a “fresh take on a remarkable historic event and on Mrs. Parks’s extraordinary integrity and resolve.”
The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998 assembles a strong thirty-year span of the poet’s work. The volume is similar to The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni, 1968-1995, but strives toward a more complete representation of Giovanni’s poetic works during the three decades under consideration. The book contains the complete contents of the first seven of Giovanni’s poetry collections, as well as other uncollected works published since then, with notes and an afterword by Giovanni herself. There is also a chronology of Giovanni’s works and achievements, information on her writing process, and historical material on the poems. “Wise and mischievous, Giovanni is a must-read at every stage of her, happily, still growing oeuvre,” commented Seaman in a Booklist review. In assessing Giovanni’s influence over her career, a Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that her “outspoken advocacy, her consciousness of roots in oral traditions, and her charismatic delivery place her among the forebearers of present-day slam and spoken-word scenes.”
In On My Journey Now: Looking at African-American History through the Spirituals, Giovanni looks carefully at the many human needs that were served by the words and music of old-time spiritual songs. In addition to being a means to express religious devotion and to raise their spirits under brutal and oppressive conditions, slaves also used the words of spirituals to communicate with each other, particularly about the activities of the Underground Railroad, without being discovered by outsiders. Giovanni “brings these motives home in this short, impressionistic look at the lives of the slaves,” commented Denise Ryan in School Library Journal. The book includes information on the place of the spirituals in the lives of the community and also contains the complete lyrics of the spirituals under discussion. The author “ponders both daily and psychic life under and after slavery” in a volume that stands as an “important work to handsell, booktalk, and embrace,” stated a Kirkus Reviews critic. Giovanni explores how “people in bondage created the great spirituals to tell their stories, and what the songs still mean to us today,” noted Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman.
Giovanni’s 2007 poetry book Acolytes blends “her own struggles” with health, fame, and her various interpersonal roles, with “the larger patterns of black American history, of striving toward freedom always,” commented a Publishers Weekly contributor. Within the eighty poems contained in the book, Giovanni strives to approach subjects that remind readers of important topics such as slavery, injustice, and the constant striving for equal rights. Along with poems that address simple childhood pleasures, she also mourns prominent African-American figures such as Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks, and praises notables such as Mari Evans and Gwendolyn Brooks. “Giovanni stands as a poet who opens our minds, eyes, and hearts,” mused Janet St. John, writing in Booklist. Library Journal critic Louis McKee concluded that Giovanni is “our conscience and our heart.”
Giovanni served as editor of Grand Mothers and the companion volume, Grand Fathers: Reminiscences, Poems, Recipes, and Photos of the Keepers of Our Traditions. In Grand Mothers, she assembles poems from writers representing a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. All of the works reminisce about grandmothers, considering their influence on the poets represented and recounting a variety of experiences, sentiments, and backgrounds in a diverse selection of poetic voices. Anna Esaki-Smith confronts how she must reconcile conflicting feelings over her two grandmothers, one good and one bad, when one of them dies. Susan Power considers the cultural importance of having a grandmother as a guide. Maxine Hong Kingston explores the role of the grandmother in Chinese culture, where infant girls are often unwanted. A reviewer in Skipping Stones noted that the collection offers a “little bit of magic” for every reader. Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan noted that the collection is “varied in quality but still a unique collection of writings. A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded: “When this collection is good, it is very good, and it ultimately proves a diverse and moving tribute.” Similarly, the collection Grand Fathers contains heartfelt reminiscences and other family stories on the importance of grandfathers. Grandfathers of different cultures and eras are considered, including ones that died too young for the contributor to have known them, and family friends who have been able to step into the grandfatherly role that blood relatives could not fulfill. In the book’s “best pieces, the particulars speak to all of us,” observed Rochman in another Booklist review. A Publishers Weekly contributor remarked that the collection is “most effective as a moving collection of American social history.”
“Most writers spend too much time alone; it is a lonely profession,” Giovanni once explained. “I’m not the only poet to point that out. Unless we make ourselves get out and see people, we miss a lot.” Teaching, lecturing, sustaining close family ties, and remaining active in her community have allowed the poet to balance the loneliness of writing with a myriad of life experiences. “[Teaching] enriches my life, I mean it keeps reminding all of us that there are other concerns out there,” Giovanni said. “It widens your world.… I have certain skills that I am able to impart and that I want to, and it keeps me involved in my community and in a community of writers who are not professional but who are interested. I think that’s good.”
“Writing is… what I do to justify the air I breathe,” Giovanni wrote, explaining her choice of a vocation in CA. “I have been considered a writer who writes from rage and it confuses me. What else do writers write from? A poem has to say something. It has to make some sort of sense; be lyrical; to the point; and still able to be read by whatever reader is kind enough to pick up the book.” Giovanni believes one of her most important qualities is to have experienced life and to have been able to translate those experiences into her work—“apply the lessons learned,” as she termed it in CA. “Isn’t that the purpose of people living and sharing? So that others will at least not make the same mistake, since we seldom are able to recreate the positive things in life.” She continues to look back on he contributions to American poetry with pride. “I think that I have grown; I feel that my work has grown a lot,” she once told an interviewer. "What I’ve always wanted to do is something different, and I think each book has made a change. I hope that the next book continues like that. Like all writers, I guess, I keep looking for the heart.” She concluded, "Human beings fascinate me. You just keep trying to dissect them poetically to see what’s there.” To Mabe, she added: “People say writers need experience. You don’t need experience, you need empathy. It’s so limiting to think that you have to go do something in order to write about it. It’s important to raise our ability to empathize and listen. I don’t need to be enslaved to write about it.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 64, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Contemporary Poets, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996, pp. 390-391.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 5: American Poets since World War II, 1980, Volume 41: Afro-American Poets since 1955, 1985, pp. 135-151.
Evans, Mari, editor, Black Women Writers, 1950-1980: A Critical Evaluation, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1984.
Fowler, Virginia, Nikki Giovanni, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1992.
Fowler, Virginia, editor, Conversations with Nikki Giovanni, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1992.
Georgoudaki, Ekaterini, and Domna Pastourmatzi, editors, Women: Creators of Culture, Hellenic Association of American Studies (Thessaloníki, Greece), 1997.
Giovanni, Nikki, Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1971.
Inge, Tonette Bond, editor, Southern Women Writers: The New Generation, University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 1990.
Josephson, Judith P., Nikki Giovanni: Poet of the People, Enslow Publishers (Berkeley Heights, NJ), 2003.
Lee, Don L., Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s, Broadside Press (Detroit, MI), 1971, pp. 68-73.
Lewis, Ida, introduction to My House, Morrow (New York, NY), 1972.
Mitchel, Felicia, editor, Her Words: Diverse Voices in Contemporary Appalachian Women’s Poetry, University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN), 2002.
Tate, Claudia, editor, Black Women Writers at Work, Continuum (New York, NY), 1983.
Twentieth-Century Children’s Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1995, p. 388.
Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994, pp. 245-246.
Weixlmann, Joe, and Chester J. Fontenot, editors, Studies in Black American Literature, Volume II: Belief vs. Theory in Black American Literary Criticism, Penkevill Publishing (Greenwood, FL), 1986.
American Libraries, March, 2005, “RUSA Announces Notable Books List,” p. 8.
American Visions, February-March, 1998, Monica Dyer-Rowe, review of Love Poems, p. 30; October, 1999, Denolynn Carroll, review of Blues: For All the Changes—New Poems, p. 34.
Baltimore Sun, April 19, 2007, Jonathan Pitts, “‘We Are Brave Enough’: Poet Nikki Giovanni, Who’d Crossed Paths with the Student Cho, Was Undaunted by the Task of Helping Heal Hokie Nation”; April 19, 2007, Jonathan Pitts, “Giovanni’s Voice Is Equal to the Task.”
Black Collegian, February, 2000, Crystal Kimpson Roberts, “Poet Laureate Shares Her Views on Carving out a Successful Career,” profile of Nikki Giovanni, p. 155.
Black Issues Book Review, November 1, 2002, “From the Editor-in-Chief,” p. 1; November 1, 2002, review of Quilting the Black-eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems, p. 32; March-April, 2004, Jadi Keambiroiro, review of The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998, p. 24.
Black Issues in Higher Education, October 28, 1999, Michele N-K Collison, “The Perks and Perils of Recruiting Academic Superstars,” p. 30.
Black World, July, 1974, review of My House, p. 64.
Booklist, December 1, 1993, Donna Seaman, review of Racism 101, p. 658; February 15, 1994, Ilene Cooper, review of Knoxville, Tennessee, p. 1084; September 15, 1994, Carolyn Phelan, review of Grand Mothers: Poems, Reminiscences, and Short Stories about the Keepers of Our Traditions, p. 122; April 1, 1996, Susan Dove Lempke, review of The Genie in the Jar, p. 1367; June 1, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Grand Fathers: Reminiscences, Poems, Recipes, and Photos of the Keepers of Our Traditions, p. 1807; December 15, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, p. 721; December 1, 2006, Janet St. John, review of Acolytes, p. 11; February 1, 2007, Hazel Rochman, review of On My Journey Now: Looking at African-American History through the Spirituals, p. 56.
Chronicle of Higher Education, February 6, 2004, Michael Arnone, “Grammy and the Professor.”
Ebony, December, 2003, interview with Nikki Giovanni, p. 30; January, 2007, review of Acolytes, p. 32.
English Journal, April, 1973, review of My House, p. 650.
Essence, March, 1994, Elsie B. Washington, “Nikki Giovanni: Wisdom for All Ages,” p. 67; May, 1999, Evelyn C. White, “The Poet and the Rapper,” interview with Nikki Giovanni, p. 122.
Horn Book, September-October, 1994, Ellen Fader, review of Knoxville, Tennessee, p. 575.
Houston Chronicle, March 3, 2004, Teresa Wiltz, “For Poet Giovanni, a State of Grace,” profile of Nikki Giovanni, p. 8; October 1, 2007, “Virginia Tech; Tragedy Teaches Professor a Lesson,” p. 2.
Instructor, January 1, 2005, Liza Charlesworth, “The Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: Celebrate the Season and Black History Month with a Frosty Gem by Nikki Giovanni,” p. 59.
Jet, May 22, 1995, “Nikki Giovanni Bounces Back after Cancer Forces Partial Removal of Her Lung and Ribs,” p. 65.
Journal of Negro History, summer, 2000, Jennifer Walters, “Nikki Giovanni and Rita Dove: Poets Redefining,” p. 210.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1971, review of Gemini, p. 1051; January 1, 1974, review of Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People, p. 11; March 15, 1996, review of The Genie in the Jar, p. 447; February 15, 2007, review of On My Journey Now.
Library Journal, January, 1996, Ellen Kaufman, review of The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni, 1968-1995, p. 103; February 1, 1997, Frank Allen, review of Love Poems, p. 84; May 1, 1999, Louis McKee, review of Blues, p. 84; November 1, 2002, Ann Burns, review of Quilting the Black-eyed Pea, p. 114; November 15, 2002, Rochelle Ratner, review of Quilting the Black-eyed Pea, p. 76; February 1, 2003, Rochelle Ratner, review of The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, p. 136; March 1, 2004, Ellen Kaufman, review of The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, p. 81; January 1, 2007, Louis McKee, review of Acolytes, p. 113; March, 2007, Denise Ryan, review of On My Journey Now, p. 228.
Monterey County Herald (Monterey, CA), September 15, 2007, Claudia Melendez Salinas, “Humor Poet’s Sharpest Weapon,” profile of Nikki Giovanni.
New York Times, August 1, 1996, Felicia R. Lee, “Defying Evil, and Mortality,” profile of Nikki Giovanni; May 14, 2000, “Poet Gives Concrete Advice at Manhattanville College,” p. 40.
New York Times Book Review, November 28, 1971, review of Spin a Soft Black Song: Poems for Children, p. 8.
Orlando Sentinel, January 23, 2001, Nancy Pate, “Nikki Giovanni on What It Takes to Be a Poet.”
PR Newswire, August 17, 2006, “Chrysler Group Hosts Legendary Poet Nikki Giovanni at National Association of Black Journalists’ 31st Annual Convention.”
Publishers Weekly, May 23, 1980, review of Vacation Time: Poems for Children, p. 77; December 13, 1993, review of Racism 101, p. 54; January 24, 1994, review of Knoxville, Tennessee, p. 54; August 8, 1994, review of Grand Mothers, p. 450; December 18, 1995, review of The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni, 1968-1995, pp. 51-52; February 19, 1996, review of The Genie in the Jar, p. 214; October 21, 1996, review of The Sun Is So Quiet, p. 83; June 28, 1999, Calvin Reid, “Nikki Giovanni: Three Decades on the Edge,” interview with Nikki Giovanni, p. 46; July 12, 1999, review of Grand Fathers, p. 96; November 17, 2003, review of The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, p. 59; August 29, 2005, review of Rosa, p. 56; December 18, 2006, review of Acolytes, p. 44.
School Library Journal, April, 1994, Judy McCoy, review of Knoxville, Tennessee, p. 119; October, 1994, Ruth K. MacDonald, review of Grand Mothers, p. 152; May, 1996, Ruth K. MacDonald, review of Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate: Looking at the Harlem Renaissance through Poems, p. 103; January, 1997, Ronald Jobe, review of The Sun Is So Quiet, p. 100; July, 1999, Patricia Lothrop-Green, review of Grand Fathers, p. 107; November 17, 2003, review of The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, p. 59; February, 2005, Catherine Callegari, review of The Girls in the Circle, p. 97; September, 2005, Margaret Bush, review of Rosa, p. 192; March, 2007, Denise Ryan, review of On My Journey Now, p. 228.
Seattle Times, January 19, 2004, Tyron Beason, “Poet, Activist Giovanni Keeps ’60s Spirit Intact for New Generation.”
Skipping Stones, January-February, 1997, review of Grand Mothers, p. 31.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, November 15, 2002, Chauncey Mabe, “Poet Nikki Giovanni Says She’s as Radical as Ever, but ‘Radical’ Has a New Meaning These Days.”
Washington Post Book World, February 13, 1994, review of Racism 101, p. 4.
Writer, October, 2005, Andrea King Collier, “A Poetic Force: Nikki Giovanni; This Powerful Poet Doesn’t Shy Away from Tough Topics, and Audiences of All Ages and Colors Love Her for It,” interview with Nikki Giovanni, p. 22.
African-American Literature Book Club,http://authors.aalbc.com/ (November 19, 2007), biography of Nikki Giovanni.
BlackEngineer,http://www.blackengineer.com/ (January 14, 2003), discussion with Nikki Giovanni.
Nikki Giovanni Home Page,http://nikki-giovanni.com (November 19 2007).
Paula Gordon Show,http://www.paulagordon.com/ (January 22, 2003), interview with Giovanni.
Poets,http://www.poets.org/ (November 19, 2007), biography of Nikki Giovanni.
Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color,http://voices.cla.umn.edu/ (November 19, 2007), profile of Nikki Giovanni.
Writers Write,http://www.writerswrite.com/ (November 19, 2007), interview with Nikki Giovanni.
News & Notes, February 15, 2005, “Interview: Nikki Giovanni Recites Her Poem and Discusses How She Came to Write It,” transcript of NPR radio performance by Nikki Giovanni.
Spirit to Spirit: The Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, PBS television special, 1987.*